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The History of the Abarth 500

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Today the Abarth brand is synonymous with impressive motoring engineering and design excellence.

Today the Abarth brand is synonymous with impressive motoring engineering and design excellence. What many don’t know is that the story behind the brand is rich in heritage and racing car history, which are still evident in the impressive models we see on the road today.

The company was first founded by Austrian-born Karl Abarth, who built his career from his extensive knowledge of motorcycles and connections in the racing industry. After suffering a near fatal motorcycle accident he was forced to abandon his racing career, which earned him five European Motorcycle Championships, and began experimenting with some of his own mechanical ideas.

Abarth moved to Italy in the 1940s and changed his name to the more Italian-sounding Carlo, before becoming a representative of the Porsche Design Studio. He then went on to develop a close relationship with Italian sports-car manufacturer Cisitalia and used his extensive list of contacts and motoring connections to found Abarth & Co, together with his racing driver friend, Guido Scagliarini.

Interesting Fact – The official Abarth logo is based on Carlo’s birth sign, the scorpion!

After just one year of trading the company had already employed over 40 members of staff and was manufacturing a range of tailor-made exhaust silencers. Despite being costly at the time the company sold thousands of the silencers, which boasted a matt finish with chrome-plated tips, resulting in the brand becoming widely recognised for its impressive quality offerings.

In 1958 the manufacturer created its first Abarth 500, which was also one of the first city cars to take to the road. Following the success of the model, the decision was made to give it an Abarth makeover, increasing the engine size and optimising the fuel intake systems with sports exhaust. Although little was changed on the exterior, the spruced up 595 model had twice the amount of horsepower and went on to break six international records as well as achieve 900 individual race victories by 1965.

Interesting Fact – The Abarth name became so popular by the sixties that it was used as a byword for performance. When ordering a strong coffee, people would ask for an Abarth coffee!

Years later in 2007, Fiat re-launched the Abarth brand with a fresh new range of sporty models, which continue to be sold around the world to this day. To take a closer look at how the vehicles have transformed in design, click here to view our Abarth range.